Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Last Seventeen Cents

We've been working with a local organization called The Village for a while. We rented some space in a not-so-nice neighborhood about nine months ago with some lofty ideals about changing the world or some such thing. This is really rather daunting, but I suppose you have to start somewhere. So you put a stake in the ground and say "here, is where we start."

There's a lot more back story to this endeavor, but I want to share one little bit with you.

Today, we had a free parking lot party. Tim did a lot of the planning so we rolled in about an hour before the official start time to set up grills and do whatever needs to be done to have a cook out in a parking lot. Miraculously, it stopped raining long enough for this to happen. (It's rained enough that I saw a mushroom the size of a hubcap today. I may grow gills.)

Our South Korean friend arrived just before we did. He saw a man near the intersection for the highway ramp and the main road. He picked up the man and brought him along. Everything he owned, presumably, was in a rolled up pack about the size of a small pillow. He wasn't unkempt, but he was homeless and ragged, so a certain amount of unkempt goes with the territory. He helped unload grills and carry things. He stayed with us nearly all afternoon eating hamburgers, drinking orange Kool Aid and listening to music. Someone said he was trying to get to Pontiac, Michigan.

As I stood behind the food tables to refill bowls of chips or whatever, I saw him slowly approach the table. We had some flyer's down at the end that we were holding down with a small change bank (like the ones you use for spare change during Lent.) The party was free but a few folks had jammed some bills in the coin slot on the top of the can. They didn't need to, but it was nice anyway. The man refilled his water bottle from the orange Kool Aid container and then reached into the little pocket on his jeans. You know the pocket- the little one in the front that makes them five pocket jeans. He pulled out a few coins. From the looks of him, I have to imagine this is about all he had.

He took a silver coin and some pennies and another coin, maybe a dime, and he put them in the can. He walked away slowly. I saw him a few minutes later on the other side of the building lighting a cigarette and then he was gone. Off to Pontiac I guess.

He didn't need to give us his money. For that matter, our friend didn't need to have picked him up. But he got picked up and he fished in his pockets for coins for the can. Do I ever give that much? Do I ever reach into my pockets and rummage through the last few coins that I have and willingly and cheerfully give them away? Am I that generous with my time? Am I that generous with my talents and spirit that even when I'm pretty sure I have nearly nothing left, I give just a little bit more away?

Well Sir, I don't know who you are, but what you did will stay with me forever. I hope you made it to Pontiac, Michigan. Thank you for coming to our picnic.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Knocked Around

In my quest for some good TV, I stumble around the dial of 200 channels like an inebriated housefly desperately searching the screen for a hole big enough to cram into and escape. Surely TV is an escape for most everyone. After an hour slogging through the machinations that is a VH1 reality show, I flipped over to a narrative of The Wreck of the Whaleship Essex and Hermann Melville. It's one of my favorite stories- gruesome but wonderful language and allegory.

Ever feel like you've been whacked upside the head by a 2 ton right whale? I can't be the only one. But when that happens, there's always the little stuff to get you through, hour by hour, if necessary. Like some of this stuff...

Andrew has a beautiful, young soul. He's not an old soul- I know you know what I mean. He doesn't look at me with those eyes that say "I've done this before, leave me alone." His eyes say "Hey, this is the first time I've seen this and I'm having a wonderful time, thank you very much." It's rather refreshing after a day or two of being knocked about in what feels like a very small, hole riddled boat.

Yesterday he told me that the new shampoo I got him made him so happy because it was a great shade of blue. "It actually made me smile in the shower." How cute is that? It's shampoo so I think that's rather delightful. He never said anything profound when peering into the Grand Canyon a few years back- he said something more like "That's a big hole." I suppose if he can appreciate the small things, I've done my job.

This is what he picked out for me for Mothers' Day...

I've received a variety of opinions about what this means- including one that suggests that he is trying to butter me up should he end up in the slammer. He's not the felonious type generally so that can't be it. Regardless, he was quite proud of the purchase and insisted that I take it to my office. So I did. Hopefully the nuns don't mind the mild profanity. (Incidentally, Peter got me a very nice vase.)

Being knocked about is generally worth it, even when the boat springs a leak, or 12. I found at my local Big Lots a nifty four pack of root beer that helped me focus on what's important even when someone else is yanking the life jacket and pushing my head under water.

It was way up on the top shelf, but not out of reach. Nothing is, if you try hard enough.

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to get back to bailing me boat.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Fib Practice

I have a colleague. I don't like this person one bit. Not one iota.

This person thinks I fib. Either that or she likes to check up on me. If you know me at all, you know that this makes me crazytown insane.

So this is what I'm going to do. I am going to call it out. I am going to call it like I see it. If you don't believe what I say and you insist on going behind my back like a 5th grader to see if I what I tell you is true, then I will call this out.

Here's the thing. If I fibbed or made stuff up, I wouldn't be mundane. I would go big. I would tell the biggest whopper you ever heard. So, if you think, Dear Miss Checkerupper that I am lying about someone being out of town, just see what I might tell you if I was really fibtastic.

No, we wouldn't be out of town at a meeting (which for real! it's the truth!) We would be...

Eating tea sandwiches with flying monkeys at a garden shop in Queensland Australia.

Or wait, this is better. We would be riding blue dragons to a luncheon with the King and Queen of Luxemermia. (That's where I'm from after all. For those of you who don't know me well, I was kidnapped by Russian spies out of my castle in Luxemermia back in 1981. I was only 6 months old and I woke up in an orange crib in Wauwatosa Wisconsin with Paula and Stu. I'm just waiting for the King's people to hook me up with my fortune. Still waiting!)

So here's the deal Miss Checkerupper, if you're too dumb to figure out that I know that you're going around checking up on me like you're some kind of insecure 5th grader, then when I meet you next week, we're going to have some fun. You just won't know it's happening because the whopper will be so big, well, I'll stop there. I don't want to give away my secrets.